Article at a Glance
Needles are no fun, but they play an important role in medicine. They help administer lifesaving vaccines, collect blood for testing, or to insert an IV. Unfortunately some people have a very real fear of needles.
The irony with needles is that the bark is worse than the bite. Often the tension leading up to the shot is worse than the pain itself.
As parents, the trick is to reduce the anxiety before the shot and to distract your child afterwards. Just like a child who skins his knee on the playground is more likely to bounce back up if he is having fun, a child will more quickly forget the shot if he has something to look forward to.
Here are some tips and tricks to help this vaccination season go a little easier for you and your child.
Bring a Treat
Make shot time a little more fun by rewarding your child with a snack. Make sure to let your child know about the treat. Remind your child about the treat right before he or she gets the shot. That way, your child can anticipate the treat instead of the needle. If you make the treat a ritual, next shot time won’t be so bad. Letting them eat sugar or candy during the shot can also help. Studies show that the sweet taste eases the pain. Often a sugar solution is given to babies in the NICU before inserting an IV.
Create a Distraction
Talk to your child about anything but the shot. Tell a funny story, read a book, sing a favorite song, or maybe make crazy faces. If you have a smart phone or tablet, you can also distract your child with a video game or cartoon.
Stop the Hype
If you tell your child about the shot three weeks in advance, then your child has three weeks to worry about it. If you wait, your child has less time to make himself sick with worry. Make your child’s life (and yours) easier by giving minimal, age-appropriate warnings.
Ask your pediatrician if it would be okay to give your child a pain reliever about 30 minutes before the shot. Applying some topical anesthetic cream to the spot an hour before can also help.
Children take cues from us. If you are worried about the shot, your child will be too. If you act like getting a shot is no big deal, you will help ease your child’s worry. Don’t let your child see you waiver. Let your child know that this is important and not open for negotiation. Nobody wants to see their child hurt, but a little needle now can prevent something much worse down the road.
Studies have shown that coughing right before and right as the needle goes in helps reduce the pain for some people. Or you can have your child blow on a pinwheel or pretend to blow out birthday candles.
For babies, studies have shown that the 5 S’s (swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking) significantly decrease pain and crying time during vaccinations. Swaddling was found to make the biggest difference.
The more tense you are, the more the shot will hurt going in. Teach older children how to take deep breaths and to relax their muscles.